Early in his career, Prof Clutton-Brock introduced the use of quantitative comparisons to establish how species differences in behaviour and life-history parameters vary in relation to ecology – an approach he uses to test ecological and evolutionary hypothesis. However, he is best known for having developed long-term, individual-based field studies of free-ranging animals in their natural habitats, to the point where it is possible to track breeding success and survival of large samples.
Prof Clutton-Brock plays an important role in training field ecologists, with over 300 interns having passed through his long-term field projects. He has received many accolades in his field, and has provided the general public with a popular introduction to the social behaviour of animals.
Prof Clutton-Brock said that his career as a zoologist interested in mammals naturally drew him to Africa, describing the continent not only as the cradle of hominid evolution but also as a habitat for many large mammals. “South African universities and scientists are at the forefront in this area.” Prof Clutton-Brock commented. “The University of Pretoria continues to be the principal centre of research on mammal biology. Its Mammal Research Institute grew from a small unit concentrating on the taxonomy of small mammals to an internationally recognised centre of research that produces a large number of ground-breaking publications each year.”